2009 SEATTLE MARINERS PREVIEW
The Mariners struggled to the second worst record in the major leagues last season, finishing with an awful 61-101 finish. The Mariners’ biggest acquisition during the 2009 offseason was ace pitcher Erik Bedard (for whom they traded 5 players!) from the Orioles. However, Bedard couldn’t make it halfway through the season due to various injuries and was lost for the season in June. The Mariners lost a lot of other pitchers during the year as well, including star closer JJ Putz. The Mariners completed the losing formula by struggling to score runs and major money star Richie Sexson was cut at midseason thanks to a batting average hovering below the Mendoza line. In short, the Mariners couldn’t hit and couldn’t pitch in 2009.
However, things are looking up in 2009. The Mariners had a lot of young talent and upgraded even further with some offseason moves, giving them a young and healthy roster to start the season anew. Remember, the Mariners were considered a contender in the AL West at the start of last season, so a major turnaround isn’t impossible in Seattle.
The Mariners feature perhaps the most talented young pitcher in all of baseball in star righty Felix Hernandez, who went 9-11 last season with a 3.45 ERA in 31 starts. Hernandez is an exceptional pitcher who will only continue to improve and is a legitimate ace. Joining him atop the rotation is newly healthy lefty Erik Bedard. Bedard struggled with injuries last year but still managed to go 6-4 with a 3.67 ERA despite not being close to 100%. You will struggle to find a much better 1-2 punch at the top of any rotation in baseball when both are healthy.
After the two aces, things get more confusing. The other three spots are up for grabs among five players: Lefties Jarrod Washburn (5-14, 4.69 ERA in 2009) and Ryan Howland-Smith (5-3, 3.42 ERA in 12 second half starts) and righties Aaron Heilman (who was acquired from the Mets after leading the majors in relief appearances the past two years), Carlos Silva (4-15, 6.46) and Brandon Morrow (3-4, 3.34). If Heilman can prove effective in a starting role, he could help solidify the rotation. Bettor’s odds, however, seem to leave Silva and Heilman out in favor of the crafty veteran Washburn and the two young star prospects.
The Mariners, on paper, are a much better team than the 101 loss edition from a year ago. That said, they’re still a ways away from contention. After their pair of aces atop the rotation, their other starters are either past their prime or very inexperienced. Furthermore, the bullpen is a gaping hole. If you don’t have great pitching then you had better have a strong offense, but Seattle is definitely in trouble in that regard as well. Their offense should be more productive than last year’s ineffective group but there isn’t one player in the lineup outside of perhaps Beltre who really strikes much fear into pitchers. Ichiro will definitely produce his share of runs with his ability to get on base and move around the infield, but it probably won’t be enough to keep Seattle in the race.
Overall, Seattle has a very bright future ahead in the next few years. However, expect their young pitching to have some serious growing pains and their young bats will need time to develop. The 2009 Seattle Mariners will need some luck to win more than 75 games this fall and will finish in the AL West basement for the second consecutive season. Any win total over 71 (a ten game improvement from last season) should be considered a successful year.
By Matt Baxendell
MLBcenter.com Guest Writer
> View all of the 2009 MLB team previews from Pro Baseball Fans